Time in Willow Creek: 12 months, 1 week, 2 days
“Good evening! Welcome to T.L. Black. Can I help you ladies find anything?”
“Yes, the maternity section, please,” Harriett said.
Hillary was burning a hole in the side of her mother’s head. Shopping for maternity clothes with her was not the way she wanted to spend her evening, or any evening for that matter. Being unexpectedly pregnant was enough. She didn’t need a closet full of frumpy, oversized clothes to remind her of her shortcomings. Harriett, on the other hand, insisted that everything in her life needed to change right away. It was too much, and she wasn’t even showing yet. Everything was about the baby. She didn’t resent her child, but she was tired of hearing about it and wished her mother would leave her alone to deal with things in her own time.
“Oh!” The sales woman quickly glanced at Hillary and tried to act like she wasn’t looking for her baby bump. “Well, everything we have is right here in the front.” She pointed to both ends of the room.
“Thank you,” Harriett said.
They walked toward the side that was closest to them. Hillary was seething the entire time. The outfits weren’t flattering at all, and she refused to let them become her life over the next four months. She had style, and she intended to maintain that style until it was physically impossible.
“See! These are the types of things you need to be wearing! You need something loose. Something that breathes. Pregnancy makes you hot! You don’t want clothes that won’t keep you cool.”
“I’m not wearing these clothes, mama!”
“Well what do you plan on wearing? You’re not gonna be able to wear those tight shirts and pants much longer. Look at you! Your girls are nearly busting out of that shirt already!”
It wasn’t that she didn’t notice the changes her body had gone through. She simply didn’t appreciate her mother constantly pointing them out–especially in public. She knew she would eventually have to buy those hideous rags, but it all seemed to be happening so quickly. At least to her it seemed to be happening quickly. Just a few hours prior, she was at the doctor’s office having that magical 20 week appointment. She was midway through the pregnancy, and things were about to happen even faster. The baby bump the doctor was expecting was right around the corner, and if the child was going to be on time, it would begin to grow very quickly not that it wasn’t already. Hillary wished things would slow down. It had been seven weeks since she found out–officially–that she was expecting, but she still hadn’t completely wrapped her mind around it. More importantly, she had not considered what to do about the child’s father or even how she was going to take care of it. Too much responsibility, too many decisions and not enough time.
“Just try them on, sugar pie! Maybe you’ll feel differently about it once you see how comfortable they are.”
“I’m. Not. Wearing. These. Clothes!”
“Hillary! You’re acting like a two-year-old! Pull yourself together and try on these clothes right now!”
She knew her mother well enough to know she would not get her way. There was no question where she got her own stubbornness from. With her fist balled, teeth gritted, and nostrils flared, she reluctantly tried on the outfit and plastered a phony smile across her face. “Are you happy now?” Her words were drenched in snark.
“How does it feel?”
She didn’t answer and gave her a blank stare.
“Well, maybe you’ll find something you like over here.” She began walking to the other side of the room.
Despite how sour the evening was, there was one thing Hillary appreciated about it. She felt she couldn’t make it through the pregnancy without her mother’s support. True, she was a bit overbearing at times, but when was ever not overbearing? That was just the way she was and people either loved her or hated her for it. Harriett made sure she didn’t eat too much junk food; reminded her to take her vitamins; made sure she got enough sleep–going to bed with the chickens, she would say. She was doing so much, and Hillary appreciated it. The least she could do was indulge her with the shopping fiasco.
“Oooh,” Hillary said and ran to an outfit.
Harriett rolled her eyes.
“I like this one, mama!” She tried on the outfit.
Harriett could only shake her head. “I’m sure you do.
“Let’s go upstairs and see what they have in the furniture department.”
They walked through the department store looking at all the nice displays of the merchandise. Everything was arranged just so. It was almost like walking through a large, stately home. Hillary had not put much thought into what she wanted her future to look like, but she definitely wanted a large house with nice things just like the displays. In the bedroom section, Harriett’s shoulders slumped when she saw the only item they had for babies was a bassinet.
“This is all they have?” She snorted. “You can get those for free at the hospital if you know to ask.”
Being in the store and looking at the furniture put snapshots of family life into Hillary’s mind. She always wanted to be just like her mom: the matriarch of a family. Her future family had always been hypothetical, but in just a few months it was going to be real even though there was no husband. It made her think though. She might have blown her future with Jase, but perhaps there could be someone she could love more–at least she hoped there would be.
“Mama? How did you and daddy meet?”
“Oh!” She was caught off guard by the question but seemed to welcome it. She motioned for them to sit. “Well… I was introduced to him when I was 16!”
“Mmm hmm! Our fathers were friends. I guess you could say they set us up with each other.”
“So, if you were 16, he was like…20?”
“There about. He was ready to get married, and his pa asked my pa if he could court me.”
Hillary grinned at this story. She wondered why she never asked before. “But he was so old! Your daddy didn’t mind?”
“Oh no. He was a friend of the family! People did stuff like that back then. Things were different. You didn’t marry someone because you thought they were cute and you were so in love or whatever you people do these days. You found someone based on practical things. Harold wanted a woman who could cook, keep a house clean, and raise good children.”
Her face scrunched up at that notion. “But what about you? Is that what you wanted?”
“I did, but back then, marriages were more about what the man wanted. Women couldn’t really be independent without becoming the talk of the town.”
Her parents dynamic was slowly making sense to her. She always wondered why they weren’t more loving toward each other but figured it had more to do with her father’s coldness after Blake’s death. She wondered if there was a time when they were madly in love. “So what about daddy? How did you feel about him?”
Harriett briefly snickered. Some memory must have amused her. “Well, when pa told me he wanted me to meet Harold, I was so excited.”
“Why? You barely knew him.”
“Oh child, it was so nice to be able to brag to my friends about seeing an older man.”
They shared a laugh.
“One day after school, we met at the soda shop and had milkshakes.”
“What did you think about him? Did you think he was cute?” She was enjoying this girl talk with her mother and wondered if they could have discussed her own problems with the same ease.
“Well…I was hoping he would be easier on the eyes, but that’s not the part that mattered. Like I said, we didn’t marry for looks.”
“So how was he?”
“Stone faced. Quiet. Didn’t smile much. I talked enough for the both of us! It was like pulling teeth trying to get that man through a conversation!”
Hillary thought it was interesting her father was almost the same person he was more than 50 years ago. “Why did you continue seeing him?”
“Well, because pa wanted me to. If he thought this man was worth me meeting, I had to trust that he knew what he was doing.”
Hillary snorted. “I’m so glad things don’t work that way anymore.”
She shrugged. “I know things are different now, and maybe a lot of that stuff we did wouldn’t go over too well now, but… Sometimes I think a little old school wouldn’t hurt.” Her eyes fell where her future grandchild was in the making.
Hillary rolled her eyes. “Mama, please. Just finish the story.”
She sighed. “Fine. We kept meeting after school. Not every day, but a couple times a week. He was boring, to say the least. Even with my big mouth I got tired of carrying the conversations!”
“Well, pa took me to their house once when he went to visit. To my surprise, your daddy was sitting at the piano! I had no idea that man could play so well. It was nice to see he wasn’t as much a bore as I thought he was. I was hiding in the corner so he wouldn’t see me, but it was so beautiful, when he was done I had to clap for him. I startled him good! He was so mad, but I didn’t care. I sat right there next to him on the bench and asked him to play another.”
Her boldness shouldn’t have surprised Hillary, but a small gasp escaped her mouth anyway.
“Mmm hmm! I sure did! I bet he thought I was crazy. At first he wouldn’t do it, but I wore him down. He played and I sang along. I don’t know how he felt, but it was the first time I ever had fun with him. He had to enjoy it too otherwise I’m not sure he would talk about his music after that.”
“He started talking to you?”
“Well, I still had to do most of the talking, but at least I knew one thing he liked to talk about. He started to open up little by little.”
“Is that when you fell in love?”
“Child have you been listening? We didn’t need love right away! Love would come with time.”
“But…how? I mean, I just don’t get it.”
She patted her daughter on the shoulder. “I know, I know. I liked him enough, and over time I saw different sides to him. He was the kind of man I wanted to be married to.”
Her eyebrow raised as she wondered how anyone would desire her father. “What did you see?”
“I know it’s hard to imagine the way he is now, but he’s a real man’s man. He might be thin as a sheet of paper, but he’s quite strong. He used to love to work with his hands. Always building stuff and fishing and all that. You know how he tells everybody he built the storage house. He was also good with his money. He wasn’t a penny pincher, but he never wasted a cent. After a while, I began to appreciate his seriousness. I was happy-go-lucky, but I wasn’t a clown. I knew how to be serious, and getting married was serious business. I wouldn’t be able to deal with a clown. But, I think the most important thing was he didn’t try to change me. Another man would probably tell me I talked too much and shouldn’t have so many ideas. Harold always listened. And in his own way, he encouraged me along the way.”
Hillary’s mind drifted. She began to think about the kind of person she would want to marry. She wanted someone she felt safe with. Someone who was financially fit. Not necessarily a rich man, but not someone who was broke and still lived at home. She wanted someone who had emotional intelligence, was driven and knew what he wanted, someone who was caring but not a pushover, and, of course, someone who liked to have fun. She let out a sigh and hung her head as she realized the person she described was none other than Jase Templeton. There were many things she didn’t like about him, but he was the kind of man with whom she could see herself spending the rest of her life.
“What’s the matter, sugar pie?”
“Nothing. Can we go home now?”